The White House Historical Association launched the new virtual holiday tour to share Jacqueline Kennedy’s vision with more Americans. By Rachel Chang
Sixty years ago, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy kicked off a new tradition, honouring the White House’s holiday decorations with a theme. From the 1961 Nutcracker motif to this year’s Gifts From the Heart, the thoughtfully crafted decor has always been enjoyed only by a select few with access to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. So, this year, The White House Historical Association, which Kennedy founded, launched a new virtual White House Holiday Tour in order to bring more Americans into the president’s home during the festive season.
The annual tradition involves volunteers coming in to hang wreaths on windows, make handicrafts, and decorate the many trees. This year’s holiday makeover includes 41 Christmas trees, 25 wreaths, 6,000 feet of ribbon, 300-plus candles, about 10,000 ornaments, and more than 78,750 holiday lights — the masterpiece of more than 100 volunteers who worked for a full week on both the interior and exterior.
White House Christmas Decorations
Among the many highlights is the Gingerbread White House — made of 55 sheets of baked gingerbread, 120 pounds of pastillage, 35 pounds of chocolate, and 25 pounds of icing — sitting on the State Dining Room’s eagle pier table with replicas of eight community buildings to honour frontline workers.
The virtual tour is available through the White House Experience mobile app on both iOS and Android devices, as well as through a web app. Not only does it take users through the current year’s decorations, but it also goes back to previous seasons to show themes through the years.
“The new White House Holiday Tour on our mobile app offers a unique look into the annual traditions and decor that past and present presidencies have adopted,” Stewart McLaurin, The White House Historical Association president, said in a statement. “Our objective is always to provide the public access to the evolving history of the estate in honour of our founder, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.”
As part of the tour, users can also get a glimpse of the 2021 official Christmas ornament, which honours the presidency of Lyndon Johnson with a painting of the 1967 Blue Room Christmas tree and his quote, “Our mission is at once the oldest and the most basic of this country: to right wrong, to do justice, to serve man.”
The Holiday Tour is just one feature of the White House Experience mobile app, which also has interactive elements such as a Presidential Look-Alike selfie-matching tool and a Fly Like Ike program, which allows users to pilot the presidential helicopter around Washington, DC in honour of former president Dwight Eisenhower.